February 2010 Archives

February 24, 2010

Handwriting mirrors the soul

In Naomi Baron's section, entitled "The Art and Science of Handwriting," in Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, she mentions how the hand is an instrument of the mind on page 59 and how handwriting let's us see into the soul of a writer on page 55.

I liked both of these ideas because, even though it’s juvenile, I still think people judge others based on what their handwriting looks like. I especially liked a quote that she used on page 58 that says, "Like a speaker’s accent, handwriting was used to pinpoint a writer's social place. What else might handwriting reveal? The writer's soul?" This quote struck me because I never though of handwriting defining social class until reading the history about it in this section of the book.

Personally, I love cursive, but I'm not good at all of it and rarely have the need to use it anyway. I only ever use all cursive when I sign my name to something legal or important, but even still, when I sign my name on a paper or test, it's half and half because I like the flow of letters together rather than as different parts. Just like different characteristics make up who I am, the formations of each letter makes up my casual signature (shown below). I like the look and feel of a half cursive writing style. But it makes me wonder, what is my soul saying?



How easy, to take You for granted.

In Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, Johannes Trithemius goes through an easily read text that talks about the Bible and its importance, as well as how the writers of the text must have felt while they copied it word for word.

"Every word we write is imprinted more forcefully on our minds since we have to take our time while writing and reading. The repeated reading of Scripture will inflame the mind of the writer and carry him happily to total surrender to God." (pg. 473)

This quote makes me think of how much we take written text and books that can be mass produced for granted. Especially the Bible. Back in the day, the Bible was the most sacred book, not only because it is from God, but because it took so long to produce more copies. I kind of wish I could have been on of the people that were commissioned to copy the Bible. Could you imagine how much better you would know God if you knew each and every one of the words in the Bible. Granted, I'm sure it wouldn't make you any better of a person, but knowing God that intimately must be intense and very rewarding. How easily we take written text for granted, we making it into eBooks so it's even easier and more accessible. Don't get me wrong, I love the advancement of technology as much as the next person but when is has it gone too far? I hope I never see a version of the Bible on eBooks.

Though I would still say that living in the time of any of the Bible stories and hearing the miracles of God first hand would be more impressive and I'm sure I would be able to be in an even greater sense of awe, being able to have your own version of the Bible is great...it gives you a reason to really know God...even though a lot of questions go unanswered because He is not right there to orally communicate with so like I've said in previous entries, the conversation is not complete without talking (praying). But how great it must have been to hear the stories first hand, to live them, or at least even to copy them word by word for other people to be able to know God as well.  

"Where them bloggers at...."

Well, this is my second attempt at writing this blogging portfolio but I guess that just goes to show how new technology is not always better, which goes perfectly along with my main point during this unit of the course, discussing the switch from oral communication to written communication.

Throughout the process I have agreed with the oral side of communication, which actually surprised me at first because of how much I love to write. But recently, especially while being in college and working at a fulltime camp in the summers, I haven’t had a lot of time to myself to just write, oral communication comes so much more naturally and freely. This semester though, I do have a class that I look forward to everyday called Publication Workshop. This course is committed to writing, submitting and getting published. But if I did not have this course, I would not be doing a lot of free and creative writing, which is the kind of writing that I find most valuable. Without Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 11:30 a.m. I wouldn’t be expressing my voice at all….in the form of written communication.

But oral communication is much freer. It happens all the time, from speakers and lectures to discussion groups and conversations between friends, even a simple hello in the hallways, orality is everywhere. It’s flexible to different people and places and has a unique ability to be everywhere at the exact same time. Written text has not been able to match that mobility and probably never will. Just because text is newer than speaking does not mean its better. Just like this blog that I had to start over, just because a blog is newer than a regular paper I would turn in to a professor, doesn’t mean it’s any better than that paper.

With these readings I agreed, basically every time, that oral communication is better than written communication and here are the entries, divided up in different categories for class purposes, that explain why I sided with orality.


Coverage: Even with a problem at the beginning of the course, I was able to blog about every text we went over in the course. Each reading was covered and each entry was rather lengthy.


Depth: This unit I had a lot to say, literally. But these are entries that I was able to talk about in depth or bring up different (not surface level) ideas for the text and that I was able to discuss further during class as well.


Interaction: For this unit I tried to read some classmates blogs before writing my own, but I only remembered to do that a couple times, but here are some entries where I was able to mention classmates in my entries and comment on their ideas and also where I left comments that either started or added to good online discussions.


Discussion: In this section are entries that I commented on that furthered discussions and some entries of my own that I contributed to, to keep the conversation moving for others.

  • Amish City - Megan’s entry about Amish living
  • Techno - Jessie’s entry about Amish living
  • Mother Goose - Maddie’s entry about storytelling


Xenoblogging: Although while it was actually happening I didn’t realize what I was doing, throughout this unit I found myself giving a lot of encouragement with information comments, here are a couple examples.


Wildcard: This has nothing to do with our class, just blogging in general and giving some useful information to a fellow student.

February 18, 2010

I'm still listening.

Please bear with me; my quote from Eric Havelock's The Muse Learns to Write is quite long this time. It's found on pages 86 and 87.

"The uniqueness of the Greek case needs to be understood. It is one which justifies the need for a special theory of Greek orality. 'The Homeric epics the need for a special theory of Greek preserved word...meet the following criteria of authenticity: 1) they have been framed in a society free from any literate contact or contamination, 2) the society was politically and socially autonomous both in its oral and literate periods and consequently possessed a firm consciousness of its own identity, 3) as far as responsibility for the preservation of its consciousness rested upon language came to be transcribed the invention necessary for the purpose was supplied by the speakers of the language within the society itself, 5) the application of the invention to transcribe anything and everything that might be both spoken and preservable continued to be controlled by Greek speakers."

I just found this process to be interesting because it meant that all of the power rested in the hands of the speakers and of the people that were delivering the oral messages. I have repeated myself about a thousand times saying that I think orality holds more precedence than written text, but the Greeks actually lived that! (Wow, I'm over excited about this.) But I really just found it to be so unique to find out that the Greeks had a system that only allowed certain things to be written down. I'm imagining living in that time and hearing a speaker that wasn't allowed to be written down...how amazing would that speech be? I'm guessing it was ground breaking, since orality was so precious and only an elite group of (men) could actually do that and be listened to, the Greeks were obviously on to something. Too bad we didn't take notice.

February 15, 2010

Let's talk about talking

In Eric Havelock's, The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present, I was instantly stopped by a quote on page 63 that says, "There is even a communications industry."

Umm...duh? But let's talk about communications for a minute. First of all, it is communication...please drop that unneeded 's.' There is only one form of communication. (Which is relaying a message from one person to another person with a possibility of feedback.)  But there are many forms of media or mediums that communication can be communicated through. (Ha, that was clever.) Anyway, now that, that is settled, let's move on.

I found another quote on page 64 to be just as interesting, "It is astonishingly flexible and mobile, and it always has been." SPOILER: I'm about to say the same thing I've already said about 100 times, only in different words, since this is a different book. END OF SPOILER.

Oral communication holds a greater faculty than written text. Prove it. Well okay.

Havelock says that communication has always been flexible and mobile - though, as we learned before, when dealing with the written text, this has not always been the case. The written text has gone through quite the ordeal to get to the flexibility and mobility that it is at today; however, orality has also been flexible and mobile. What's the greatest way to get somebody to do something? Ask them face-to-face, looking the right in the eye and saying what you need to. Sure there are other effective ways to do this as well, today, but that has not always been true. Oral communication is greater because of its effectiveness, (you have a smaller chance of  misunderstanding someone when you're talking with them in person) mobility, (tell a secret to someone with a 'big mouth' and see how quickly that secret gets back to you, word of mouth is the biggest form of PR) and because of it's frequent use (everyone learns how to talk before they learn to read and even if someone never learns to read, they will always have that ability to relay their message through oral communication.)

I don't see my mind changing on this subject anytime soon. 

Slightly against the grain.

While reading this section in Eric Havelock's, The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present, I tried to test myself by seeing if I could take on the opposite opinion of the one I have already formed for this class, which is that oral communication holds a better standing than written text.

So the first quote that I decided to bring in is on page 56 where it says, "How then can orality store its information for re-use? How can it preserve its identity?"

While I will agree that oral communication is lost once a person is finished speaking (unless of course someone writes them down or you have an excellent memory and can remember what they said, word for word) I don't believe that all oral communication is either 1)supposed to be re-used for many things and 2) will lose it's identity.

In the case of re-using oral communication's information, it is true that much of the message if not all of the message would be lost if someone never wrote it all down. Haven't you ever played telephone? Once one person starts telling a story to another person, yes facts do change and some things get twisted, but on the case of orality loosing its identity, I think that happens when it becomes text.

Okay, I agreed with the rest of the class for a couple paragraphs now I need to let out how I really feel. On page 47 of the text, Havelock says "Here are texts that do indeed 'speak,' but imperfectly." Yes, I agree, a text can 'speak' to someone for example the Bible, certain poems, cheesy romance novels that give you goose bumps and make you want to vomit all the same time, yes, those kinds of text do speak to people, but would you rather be spoken to or spoken with? I'd pick the latter. Orality will lose its identity when it becomes a written text because no one can even display the emotion that the speaker put into it and the conversation stops once the writing is put in place. I like conversations. I like when knowledge continues to develop and learning is able to constantly move forward. You cannot constantly move forward if you are constantly trying to catch up on different readings.

I'll finish on this note, on page 62, Havelock says, "The singing muse translates herself into a writer: she who had required men to listen now invites them to read." So I guess that's nice but which is more captivating to you....a beautiful woman singing to you while you're standing in her presence or being away from the beautiful woman and reading dead words?

Hey Muse, you just lost your relationship with men because now instead of being with you, they're somewhere else, reading. Let's put it this way, ladies, would you rather read a Cosmo magazine or actually be with the man of your dreams? Again, I pick the latter.

February 10, 2010

Sorry, could you please sit down? I'm trying to read your PowerPoint.

It's a good thing that I liked Ian Parker's writing style to be engaging because he was discussing one of my least favorite topics. PowerPoint. (yawn)

In Parker's article, "Absolute PowerPoint," in Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, he says on page 353 "You are judged by it - you insist on being judged by it," although I don't know exactly how he meant this to be, it reminded me of my senior year of high school in my AP Government class. There were only twelve of us in the class because it was apparently the "hardest class that Lincoln High School offers." (I didn't think it was that bad.) Anyway, we all used PowerPoint in our class presentations and since we were put in the category of "the best students in the senior class" we always tried to out-due each other with our PowerPoint. We used different layouts, different sounds and all kinds of animation. We were judged on it and we did insist on being judged. Just like Parker says. I now see this all as pathetic.

I have always hated PowerPoint but feel that I hate it even more now that I'm a Communication major. When we have class presentations now, I hate that question that some student, without missing a beat, has always asked, "Do you want us to make a PowerPoint?" If I was the professor I'd probably fail that student without question. I understand when Parker calls it the "antidote to fear" on page 354 because not everyone is comfortable with public speaking. I get it, some people get a little stage fright, that's fine, but it's not fine when you're entire speech if written on the PowerPoint and you're reading it off the screen and adding some hand gestures to make it seem like you're actually giving a speech. Sit down, I can read for myself. Thank you.

That might have been harsh. Let me back up. PowerPoint was made to AID a presentation, not MAKE a presentation. This goes along with my favorite saying of "is the PowerPoint using you or are you using the PowerPoint?" Too many times I see students being used by the PowerPoint and not looking professional in the least bit considering I can read a slide faster to myself than they seem to be able to read it out loud. When I am forced to use a PowerPoint (yes, this has happened) I put the least amount of information on it as possible. PowerPoint is for notes, or words that will remind you of things you're supposed to say or to show a movie clip or picture or a chart. It was not made so you have a giant version of your entire speech in front of other people that you can read to them.

My favorite part of Parker's article is when he raises the issue on presentation vs. conversation. I feel like this issue goes back to my opinion on the oral vs. written communication. In that case, are you really learning when you are simply reading or are you learning when you're in the moment learning from another person and seeing first hand what is going on, with the ability to ask questions to the expert. In the PowerPoint case, when you're doing a presentation are you engaging your audience with your information and then having a CONVERSATION with them, or are you just presenting information? This makes me continue to side with the oral form of communication, because if someone has their presentation fully written out on the PowerPoint, I don't pay attention to them, honestly them being there is pointless, I'm in college I know how to read. But when someone is able to use a little amount of notes on the PowerPoint and is interacting with the audience and stepping away from the mouse to click to the next slide (because they don't even need those slides) I'm more likely to not only pay attention, but also to learn more.    

February 8, 2010

My opinion is a broken record

In Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, in Walter Ong's section, titled, "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought," I found more evidence to support my opinion that oral communication is in more ways better than written communication.

On page 319, Ong says, "Plato's Socrates complains, a written text is basically unresponsive. If you ask a person to explain his or her statement, you can get at least an attempt at explanation: if you ask a text, you get nothing except the same, often stupid words which called for your question in the first place."

Thanks Ong and Socrates. I feel like I've been saying this the whole semester, thus far. My opinion is that text though may in some forms make you feel certain ways, my make you think differently and may even "speak" volumes to your soul, but it cannot speak to you. I think that you're missing out on so much if you can not have a conversation with a whatever material you're dealing with.

Oral communication on the other hand, talks back to you, answers your questions about its material and interacts with you. Maybe it's because I perfer to learn through interaction and physically doing something (although I would consider myself a visual learner, I don't learn anything if I'm not engrossed in it). But, what I don't understand is how you can learn anything without knowing the entire concept of what is going on, I think you can only learn all of that information through oral communication. Don't get me wrong, I love books, but I also have questions that go unanswered, in conversation, that doesn't happen. Though someone can withhold information, who really does that when you're staring them dead in the eye?

This argument is hard to make through writing. Which Ong also says later in his article on page 319, "...the written word cannot defend itself as the natural spoken word can: real speech and thought always exist essentially in the context of the struggle. Writing is passive, out of it, in an unreal, unnatural world. Maybe I'll be better able to form this argument in class when I can actually use emotion and speak, instead of writing these lifeless words. 

February 1, 2010

This one might be reaching.

While reading through the assigned chapters in The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present, I was stopped in the beginning of chapter three where Havelock says, "What has it meant for societies and their communication in favor of literate ones of various sorts? There is the contemporary one: What precisely is the relationship between the spoken word of today (or yesterday) and the written text? There is the linguistic one: What happens to the structure of a spoken language when it becomes a written artifact? Does anything happen?" These questions made me think about the public forum that we had at SHU about the color change to the sculpture outside of Lynch.

During the forum many people from the SHU community started discussing about how the color change to Josefa Filkosky's sculpture was ruining the artist intent and the meaning behind the piece because it was no longer the piece she created. I have to admit that I have little education about art and what art is and so on beyond the art history courses that I've taken at Seton Hill, purely because I love Maureen Vissat and how she teaches, but I digress. While I was at the forum, I had no real opinion besides that in my eyes, yes I was shocked the first time I pulled up Seton Hill Drive to see a new BLUE sculpture and even mentioned it to my brother (who was helping me move in) that it was different, but after I got used to the color I began to realize I liked it a lot more in blue. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about SHU spirit and sport the red and gold often, but to be honest, I thought that piece never looked better.

What does this have to do with Havelock? I'm getting there....

During the forum, Dr. Boyle had a chance to explain to everyone the reasons behind the color change and why she gave the painters the go ahead. While I'm sure some people to this day do not agree with her, I have to say she handled the pressing situation with much grace and I mostly appreciated when she posed the question of who really has a say in the artwork once it is given away to someone? She also asked questions along the lines of, does artist intent matter once the piece becomes public and mentioned that while we change literature to fit our needs of the current (ever-changing) society, no one even questions it, but changing a color in on a sculpture calls for red flags. Isn't any form of art...art? I tend to think that no matter what the piece; a song, painting, poem, book or sculpture, once art becomes public - the artist doesn't have a big say in what happens to it, especially if it was given to someone. (I say this even as I have plans to write in the future and realize that sentence just gave full rights to ruin my future work. Boo.)

Anyway, with Havelock, while I was reading I thought of all of this because I wanted to pose the following questions, did written text ruin oral stories? (since there is no way scribes could write the exact same way the speaker told the story) Does changing art forms (in this case writing) into something else matter? (ex. books into movies, since the original work is then not the same) If we stayed with oral histories only, where would we be now?

Time to discuss.   

"Technology is my native tounge..."

After reading Howard Rheingold's "Look Who's Talking" section in Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, I have to admit that I have the same feelings about the Amish as I did before reading.

I could never be one of them.

But with that being said, in some ways I do admire what they bring to the diverse table called America. When I first read through some other classmates entries on this reading I thought about how, especially during my years at college, when I should be using technology the most, I've encountered many times to give up all forms of it to make my life simpler and "more free."

I've been working at Jumonville, a Christian camp in Hopwood, PA (a location very close to an Amish-like community) every summer since coming to college and while the camp itself is very much in this century, thanks to the tech savvy President, Larry Beatty, as summer staff we are highly encouraged (as I said on Megan's entry) to leave our cell phones behind at all times, unless we need them for emergencies and we are only able to get on the computers located in the office on Saturdays, after our campers have left and only while the office is unlocked during the day. Also, my sophomore year college I did a Media Fast, in which I gave up all forms of media for Lent. Although it was much easier to actually accomplish than I thought it would be, I have to admit the number of times I was bored out of my mind was astonishing to me because I wasn't able to get on Facebook.

But, I also have to say that even though I use technology probably more than the average person does per day, I don't feel that I am ever doing something to harm a relationship or use technology in a way that would "take me a way from the community."

I really attached to the quote Rheingold takes from one of the Amish men he meets that says, "We don't want to be the kind of people who will interrupt a conversation at home to answer a telephone. It's not just how you use technology that concerns us. We're also concerned about what kind of person you become when you use it" (380). Even though I understand that, that category of people consists of dead-beat dads, over talkative teenage girls, gossiping church ladies and a few too many business men, I'm sure, I wonder what kind of person that Amish man is talking about.

Rheingold later quotes him when he asks the questions of how many of us interrupt a physical conversation to answer a phone call and who really benefits from the use of call waiting? Well, I'm sure that all of us have at least done the first and honestly, no one benefits from being put on hold while someone changes lines to take another call. Imagine if that same kind of conversation happened physically. I have a feeling that more people would walk away then the people that actually stay on hold until the person returns to the other phone line. But does that mean that we should ban all of these new advances? Should we limit ourselves because the Amish think we're not doing something right?

Although I'm all about face-to-face conversation coming in over email, chatrooms or telephone lines, sometimes that is not always possible and why would you go without talking to someone just because you cannot see their face? Besides, that's why God invented Skype.